Top 10 Myths About Scholarships

Tuesday, December 12, 2023
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Scholarships. You hear about them all the time, from parents and teachers and peers, but how much do you really know? As scholarship experts, NSHSS hears students share incorrect information about scholarships all the time. Sometimes this makes them less likely to apply, missing out on all kinds of opportunities. 

However, scholarships for college are available, and you can win one (or more). We want to take this time to cover the top myths we hear and give you the facts about scholarships so you can be empowered to apply today! 

1. College scholarships are only for certain students

Scholarships are awarded to all types of students, not just straight-A students, top athletes, or lower-income students.

You may be surprised to know that many more students with a GPA of 3.0 to 3.4 win scholarships for college than those with higher GPAs. In addition, fewer than 2% of high school student-athletes receive athletic scholarships. Never avoid scholarships because you're worried that you aren't good enough or that the scholarship is too tough to get: there is a scholarship for everybody. 

2. There’s too much competition for scholarships

It’s true that the few high-value scholarships have stiff competition. But you don't have to compete for the top 10 scholarships: there are over a million other scholarships available.

You can increase your odds of winning one with careful planning. Most importantly, read the directions for each college scholarship you apply for — you’ll be surprised how many students miss out because they don’t!

 In addition, don’t forget to check out local sources (such as local companies, businesses, nonprofits, charities, chamber of commerce, your parents' employers, sports club, booster club, etc.) for scholarship opportunities. NSHSS is another great source of college scholarship opportunities, awarding over $2.5 million annually - so by reading this, you've already got an edge! 

3. It’s too hard to apply for scholarships

Not every scholarship makes you jump through hoops to apply. Stay organized by creating a spreadsheet or list of all the requirements. Many do not require an essay or financial information, or can pull information right from your high school. Also, because scholarships often ask similar questions on their applications, you can repurpose your answers for other ones.

4. Don’t waste your time with the small ones

Private scholarships — those not given out by institutions — are usually less than $4000. Many are in the $500 to $1000 range. You may think they’re not worth it, especially compared to the high cost of college, but they can add up and make a real difference. 

Remember, you can apply for as many scholarships as you want. You can reduce the cost of tuition substantially by winning even two or three smaller scholarships. Even if they cover the cost of textbooks or your dorm, that is better than nothing. 

5. It’s too hard to find scholarships for college

College scholarships can be found everywhere. If you don’t know where to start, check with your high school guidance office. While a quick Google search can also turn up a lot of college scholarships, up to 42% will not be found through just Googling alone. Make use of your community resources to find as many as you can. 

The National Society of High School Scholars can also help. NSHSS provides unique scholarship opportunities in one convenient place.

6. You’ll have to write an essay

If you're not a strong writer, or simply don't enjoy it, the idea of writing an essay may feel daunting. But many college scholarships don’t require an essay. Some are more like sweepstakes you enter, while others are merit-based and require your GPA and letters of recommendation. 

7. You only need to apply for a few scholarships

If you don’t apply, you can’t be awarded a scholarship. Think of it as a numbers game. The more applications you submit, the more chances you have.

If you need to take out loans to pay for your college, you’ll definitely want to apply for as many scholarships as possible to reduce your loan amounts. Remember that you can apply for them once you're already in college, too, to pay for later years.

8. Filling out the FAFSA is all you need to do

Filling out the FAFSA is necessary for you to be considered for financial aid and federal loans. Moreover, many schools require it so they can award institutional scholarships. However, the amount of money your college may award you probably won’t be enough to cover all your costs. The FAFSa also primarily awards loans, while scholarships don't have to be paid back, so they're a better option where available. 

Other scholarships will require separate applications, so don't stop with just the FAFSA. 

9. Scholarships are only for high school seniors

There are college scholarships available for all students. Some specify that you must be a high school senior. Others are open to high school juniors or for those already in college. Just because you didn't enter college with a scholarship doesn't mean you can't get them later. The school will also review your FAFSA each year to see what needs-based options you're eligible for that year. 

10. Applying for scholarships is a one-time thing

You might think you’re done with scholarships once you head off to college. However, it’s worth it to keep applying throughout your college career.

Read the fine print on any scholarship you receive. It might renew each year automatically, or you might have to reapply for it each year. There are also many scholarships available only to current college students, so you may be eligible later down the line. 

If you're still feeling overwhelmed, we understand: navigating the college scholarship process may seem difficult at first. Membership in NSHSS can help sort out scholarship facts from fiction and make the entire process easier - it's what we do!